Election Battleplace: Social or Traditional Media?

08 Feb,2019


By Shailesh Kapoor


The buzz is unmistakable. We are in an election year, and we can feel it. While specific dates will be out soon, the April-May period has been confirmed by senior leaders of the ruling party as the broad window in which 2019 General Elections will be held. The speeches have started, and alliances have started taking shape. After all, we are only two-three three months away from the first polling day.


2019’s will arguably be the most bitterly-fought elections ever in independent India’s history. With social media being a prominent marketing tool to woo voters, it seems there is no room for subtlety or grace in election campaigns anymore. Personal attacks, accusations and rough language will be par for the course. We saw a glimpse of this in 2014 too. But there was a certain wave around Narendra Modi that became the dominant theme of those elections. This time, the opposition looks stronger and the fight can be tougher. The politicking may go on well after the election results are out, because a hung verdict seems the most likely outcome as of today, if one goes by recent opinion polls by leading media houses. But then, three months is a long time in politics.


These will possibly be the first General Elections where the agenda is driven more by social media than traditional media. While social media was used to great effect by NDA in 2014, TV was still the lead medium. Things have changed significantly on the digital front over the last five years, and social media is no longer the bastion of the urban affluent and semi-affluent class. Social media will set the agenda and drive it, and effective use of social media can effectively swing the verdict in a close contest.


Where does TV even stand in all of this, then? Over the last few years, the rise of digital news has meant that TV has taken the form of an opinion-centric medium, than one that breaks news. Channels and anchors put their stand upfront on issues, and don’t hesitate to take clear ideological positions. While this is a far cry from the classical definition of journalism, there seems to be a growing feel in the traditional journalist community that having a viewpoint is the only way for TV and print to counter digital news.


We see that in the primetime everyday, across news channels across languages. And the polarisation of media, including some digital sites and apps, will get only more apparent in the coming weeks.


It is easy to get frustrated with all the lowbrow politics and crass marketing that is sure to be on display. I’ve decided to focus on the “entertainment of politics” in these elections. I’ll be watching out for those silly one-liners, those foot-in-the-mouth quotes, those jibes that can be remixed into a YouTube video, and so on. Watch this space for more!



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